The next contender for our drop-in AR-15 trigger dollars is the KE Arms DMR Trigger, and at ~$180 it’s priced lower than much of the competition. Available in both the gold TiN coating seen here or in black Melonite, the KE trigger is highly adjustable and well-made. Let’s dive in for a closer look. . .
Despite an MSRP that’s solidly below average among its drop-in trigger unit peers, KE keeps the quality top notch. Build breaks down as follows:
- trigger shoe, hammer, and disconnector are wire EDM-cut from A2 tool steel
- trigger shoe, hammer, and disco are TiN (Titanium Nitride) coated
- housing is machined from aluminum then anodized blue
Trigger/hammer/disco are all a full, 1/4″ width to maximize strength and long-term durability. This can boost the safety factor, too, through large engagement surfaces.
Two set screws protrude from the bottom of the housing for tensioning the KE unit inside of the receiver. They push the unit up against the trigger pins, locking everything in place and dialing out any wiggle. The hammer spring has short “legs” to allow for easy access of these tensioning set screws, but the spring still feels full-power or close to it.
The other adjustment offered on the KE Arms DMR is that of trigger pull weight. By turning another set screw the end user can increase or decrease the amount of force necessary to trip the sear. Maximum adjustment range doesn’t seem to be specified, but pull weights in the 3- to 4.5-lb range are definitely possible and a larger spread is likely possible.
On The Range
To maintain continuity across all of these drop-in trigger reviews, including the ELF Tactical, Velocity Triggers, and CMC Triggers review already published, we’ll rate them on the same metrics. For definitions of the following trigger fundamentals, please see that ELF Tactical review.
- Take-up, which is also referred to as pre-travel or slack. The trigger itself has no take-up. It’s a single stage and it’s right up on the sear at rest.
- Creep. If I pull the KE trigger shoe about as slowly as possible, I can feel the creep as the trigger/sear surfaces slide apart. It’s smooth and so short in pull distance that it’s entirely unnoticeable outside of that pulling-as-slowly-as-possible scenario.
- Break. Perfectly clean and crisp. Instant and complete snap from full pull weight to zero.
- Overtravel. Quite short. Very little excess travel. Hard stop at the end.
- Reset. The only little nit to pick on the KE trigger is the littlest bit of grit on the reset travel. If you’re letting the trigger out slowly, you can feel the disconnector sliding off the hammer hook. A dab of grease would cure this, but I shot it as it came from the factory, which is basically lube-free thanks to the TiN coating. Same story with the Velocity Trigger, but the Robar NP3 coating on the Velocity is slicker so that grit isn’t there. A minor gripe, for sure, as once again if you’re shooting at a normal or a fast pace this grit cannot be felt. Reset travel is slightly shorter than average, and the click is nicely tactile and audible.
- Pull Weight. Pull weight on the KE DMR trigger is user adjustable. Mine measured a consistent 3 lbs, 3 oz from the factory and I saw no need to mess with it from there. Not for range and target shooting, at least. The ability to bump it up closer to 5 lbs is welcome should it be chosen for defensive type use.
I shot a handful of IMI 5.56, Federal 5.56, and a bunch of Silver Bear .223 with the KE installed, and it had zero issues. Despite the fairly hard primers found in this ammo, they were dented with authority. The trigger was totally reliable throughout, both suppressed and unsuppressed.
The trigger blade feels good and looks good. I dig the gold TiN — although it’s already gone on most of the wear surfaces — but the option of black Melonite is nice for keeping things more subdued. KE’s DMR Trigger is a great, single-stage trigger for precision shooting and it’s a very fast trigger for 3-gun style competition use or just for fun on the range.
This is an excellent trigger. It looks good, it feels good, it shoots well, it’s definitely high quality, and it’s awesome on the fundamentals. If there’s any chink in the DMR’s armor, though, it’s that the Velocity Trigger checks all the same boxes in almost identical fashion for less money (MSRP is $40 less, and “street price” shows a larger disparity). That said, a rifle is often a long-term investment so if there’s something about the KE that’s more appealing, such as the aesthetics of the gold TiN coating, then $40 over the lifetime of an AR-15 is nothing.
Also, shout-out and thanks to Strike Industries for sending me a trigger jig to make this back-to-back testing so much easier.
RATINGS (out of five stars, compared to other drop-in AR triggers):
Fundamentals: * * * *
Without the back-to-back experience of the other triggers, I’d rate this five stars. But this ~10-trigger roundup will [probably] have one on top and one at bottom, and the KE DMR Trigger is amazing but is second fiddle to the ELF on fundamentals. It’s effectively in a dead heat with the Velocity Trigger here, as they feel nearly identical except for the teeny bit of grit in the KE’s reset…if you’re looking to find it.
Features: * * * *
Set screws for receiver tension, pull weight adjustment, full width internals, TiN (or Melonite) finish.
Price: * * * *
MSRP of $189.95 — although I have never seen it on KE’s site for other than $179.95 — puts it below average (for drop-in units) for a rating above average.
Overall: * * * *
I’m calling this one a dead heat with the Velocity Trigger, but knocking off a half star since the KE DMR costs more and I think the Velocity’s NP3 coating is functionally superior. No matter how you spin it, though, KE’s DMR is an absolutely excellent trigger.